Gender-Reversed Interview Reenactments Challenge Political, Cultural, and Social Ideas


Educational Videos by NYU Steinhardt’s New Verbatim Performance Lab Explore Biases

NYU Steinhardt Verbatim Performance Lab (VPL)
NYU Steinhardt Verbatim Performance Lab (VPL)

A man interrupts a woman in a television interview. She smiles, tilts her head to the side, and patiently waits to continue her response.

But what happens when it’s the woman doing the interrupting – and the man is smiling? Do falsehoods and frustrations feel different when coming from a man versus a woman?

A series of four videos released today reenacting a February 14, 2017 “Today” show interview between NBC’s Matt Lauer and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway explore these questions.

Each video is a reenactment of an interview on the overnight resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, but with four different pairs of actors. In one, a male actor plays Conway and a female plays Lauer. In a second, Conway and Lauer are both played by men, and in a third, both played by women. The final video features actors who match Conway and Lauer’s genders.  

The videos were created by NYU Steinhardt’s newly formed Verbatim Performance Lab, which uses documentary verbatim theatre techniques to investigate, interrogate, and disrupt preconceived notions and implicit biases across a range of political, cultural, and social issues.

“The overarching goal of the lab is to produce content that allows us to see what we think of as familiar in a new and different way. By using performance as the catalyst, we hope that audiences gain insights that help to foster empathy for those who are different from them,” said Joe Salvatore, clinical associate professor of educational theatre at NYU Steinhardt and director of the Verbatim Performance Lab.

Actors in verbatim performance carefully replicate actual words, gestures, and movements. The four actors in the new video series, who studied the interview at length in order to replicate it as close to the original source material as possible, are Salvatore (as the male Conway), Analisa Gutierrez, Andy Wagner, and Ashley Renee Thaxton.

Along with INSEAD Business School’s Maria Guadalupe, Salvatore conceived a related and provocative production that re-staged the 2016 presidential debates with the candidates’ genders reversed. Salvatore directed the much-discussed play, “Her Opponent,” at NYU’s Provinceton Playhouse in January 2017 and in a two-month off-Broadway run at the Jerry Orbach Theater this spring.

The Verbatim Performance Lab plans to create a series of short video and audio recordings throughout the 2017-18 academic year that explore political, social, and cultural topics through recreating existing media artifacts.

Salvatore intends for the videos to be used as educational tools in classrooms both nationally and internationally, creating opportunities for educators and students to address topics like gender biases and politics as performance.

To view the videos, click HERE

About Steinhardt Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions

Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, established in 1925, instructs over 1,600 students majoring in music and performing arts programs. Music and Performing Arts Professions serves as NYU’s “school” of music and is a major research and practice center in music technology, music business, music composition, film scoring, songwriting, music performance practices, performing arts therapies, and the performing arts-in-education (music, dance, and drama).

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